This year Houghton Lodge Gardens, Test Valley, Hampshire, has been making the most its glorious garden setting by staging a unique collection of events in collaboration with The Honesty Group, which manages the Tea Rooms set within the estate. On Sunday 29th September the gardens will see the final two events of the season – its ever-popular Apple Day, a celebration of the apples that grow within the ancient heritage apple orchard with a wassailing event to round off the afternoon.
Apple Day will be held in conjunction with Sparsholt College, which runs courses in a range of subjects from Agriculture, Forestry and Woodland management through to Horticulture and Countryside management. Its expert staff will be on hand to impart their apple wisdom on the day and identify any apples (or pears!) you may have growing in your garden. The Winchester Morris Dancers will be dancing at 2.30pm & 3.30pm, and there will be an apple trail to find the golden apple!.
Throughout the day, Honesty at Houghton Lodge Gardens will be open for scrumptious apple treats.
The orchard-visiting wassail has its roots in the ancient custom of visiting orchards in cider-producing regions of England, reciting incantations and singing to the trees to promote a good harvest for the coming year. The Houghton Lodge wassail will begin at 3.30pm and will include an introductory talk from local gardener and horticulture expert Andrew Bentley about the history of wassailing followed by a procession round the garden to the orchard area to perform a chant and wassail song accompanied by music.
Visitors are encouraged to bring their own instruments (homemade are welcome!). Then Andrew will perform a toast to the 'Queen Tree' by placing bread soaked in apple juice into the tree. Guests will then repeat this ceremony with some of the other trees around the orchard.
As well as these exciting activities, visitors will also be able to wander round the gardens to see over 32 varieties of apple trees, as well as pear, plum, fig and kiwi trees in the kitchen garden and the great espalier pear tree with a span of over fifty feet – recently crowned a Champion Tree!
There's also the woodland grotto, Long Border, Peacock gardens with its topiary birds, walled kitchen garden and alpacas set within the water meadows with their riverside walk along the famous Test.
The outside of the House itself, the best surviving example in England of an 18th century 'Cottage Orné', can also be admired from the gardens.
Apple Day: 11.00-4.00pm. Free entry to The Orangery to speak to Sparsholt College and to enjoy the Art Exhibition and Tearoom. Normal entry price to the garden applies.
Wassailing Event: 3.30pm - 5.00pm, (ticket only) Adults £14.00 and £10.00 for child which includes tea/ coffee and a slice of homemade apple cake /apple muffin, and toffee apple for children to take home. Afternoon tea can be pre-ordered at £21.50 Adult or £12.50 per child to include wassailing event and garden admission. To book visit Houghton Lodge's website.
For those wanting to take a short break to coincide with Apple Day, the recently opened accommodation at Houghton Lodge – the aptly-named Apple Rooms – provide luxury self-catering accommodation in a bespoke collection of 6 individually designed boutique en-suite bedrooms.
Houghton Lodge provides an excellent base for touring the stunning countryside, visiting the many local attractions and historic market towns in the Test Valley area. Fishing can also be arranged along the stretch of the River Test that runs through the gardens.
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